Featured

40 FAVOURITE ALBUMS OF 2017

DS2017favealbums

If anything, their music inhabits even darker territory, the songs collapsing in on themselves as they chug and career along – The Terminals, Antiseptic

In this day and age of accessibility and cultural saturation, it can be hard to unearth music you like, and at the same time discover new music outside the mainstream or the most prominent online access points. Digging through the detritus and overload, I’ve found that more and more I lock onto albums that give a little extra. They create their own world of music for the 30-60 minutes you spend with them. They make you wonder how the artists wrote the songs, how they composed the music. I was drawn to imperfect performances, atmosphere over precision (though The War On Drugs manage to exemplify both), melody, energy, intelligence and rhythm.

My favourite album of the year probably won’t feature on any other list you read (though hopefully it does). The Terminals, from NZ, released a record that mainlines a sense of musical nostalgia in my synapses, harkening back to the music of my teens and early 20’s in the NZ underground. The legacy of Flying Nun, alternative rock and darkly emotive music from a couple of islands at the end of the Earth. In my review I said “The Terminals have never been creatively stronger than they are on Antiseptic. It’s their finest album and the sound of musicians digging deep and exploring a lifetime of musical influences and experiences without concession to anything outside of their own ideas and instruments.”

Elsewhere you’ll find all manner of musical styles, from eccentric folk to kraut-tronica, country to ragged suburban punk rock, gothic 80s synth to skronking saxophone. Dig deep and enjoy.

terminals

1. The Terminals – Antiseptic REVIEW

58cfd0b948f99

2. Aldous Harding – Party REVIEW

a3966561371_10

3. Kevin Morby – City Music

243a5b88-5f71-4ae0-8705-1c4e3b81cde2

4. Thurston Moore – Rock N Roll Consciousness REVIEW

the tall grass

5. The Tall Grass – Down The Unmarked Road REVIEW

a1874843766_10

6. Protomartyr – Relatives In Descent REVIEW

jepanddep

7. Jep and Dep – They’veBeenCalled REVIEW

Screen Shot 2017-08-29 at 10.19.22 am

8. Underground Lovers – Staring At You, Staring At Me REVIEW

war_on_drugs_the_a_deeper_understanding_0817

9. The War On Drugs – A Deeper Understanding REVIEW

0011897714_10

10. Suicide Swans – Augusta

11. Hurray For The Riff Raff – The Navigator

12. Ryan Adams – Prisoner REVIEW

13. Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band – Dreaming In The Non-Dream

14. Jen Cloher – Jen Cloher REVIEW

15. Omni – Multi-Task

16. David Rawlings – Poor David’s Almanack

17. Traveller – Western Movies

18. Daniel Romano – Modern Pressure

19. The Texas Gentlemen – TX Jelly

20. LCD Soundsystem – American Dream

21. Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys – Rot

22. Hollow Everdaze – Cartoons REVIEW

23. Feral Ohms – Feral Ohms

24. Mogwai – Every Country’s Sun

25. Pissed Jeans – Why Love Now REVIEW

26. Colin Stetson – All This I Do For Glory

27. Laura Marling – Semper Femina

28. Trevor Sensor – Andy Warhol’s Dream

29. The Singing Skies – Head In The Trees, Heart On The Ground REVIEW

30. Mount Kimbie – Love What Survives

31. Chomper – Medicine Mountain

32. Ricardo Villalobos – Empirical House

33. The Afghan Whigs – In Spades REVIEW

34. Marty Stuart – Way Out West REVIEW

35. Chain And The Gang – Best Of Crime Rock REVIEW

36. Karl Blau – Out Her Space REVIEW

37. Chris Robinson Brotherhood – Barefoot In The Head REVIEW

38. Destroyer – ken REVIEW

39. John Maus – Screen Memories

40. Gold Class – Drum REVIEW

Advertisements

SONIC KICKS: The Singing Skies

Sonic Kickssingingskies

On the eve of the Vivid launch show for the new LP from The Singing Skies, the main creative figure behind the band, Kell Derrig-Hall, takes us on a tour of his record collection and a few of the albums that shaped his musical life.

Head In The Trees, Heart On The Ground (via Preservation Records) is Derrig-Hall’s second album and it’s quite the immersive, mesmerising and atmospheric listening experience – of which we’ve said:

“Evocative moods via a lush and swooning sonic palette afford Derrig-Hall the ability to paint stately and ornate folk songs of the English variety. Everything is considered and most of it is gently presented with strings, guitar, shuffling drums, soft bass and a warm dose of ambient reverb giving the songs a dreamy, pastoral quality.”

You can catch The Singing Skies launching their album live at Golden Age Cinema & Bar in Surry Hills, Sydney on Saturday June 3rd, in collaboration with Vivid Sydney.

metallica

The first album you bought.

I bought Metallica’s Ride The Lightning and Guns N’ Roses’ The Spaghetti Incident on cassette from a mall near my house. The Guns N’ Roses tape was all covers which I didn’t realise at the time. I think there was a Cosmic Psychos cover on there which is pretty cool. I’m still a pretty big fan of Ride The Lightning when I’m in the right mood.

An album that soundtracked a relationship.

My partner Lia and I listened to a lot of Red Apple Falls by Smog early in our relationship. It’s a lovely record to sleep in and create your own world around.

leonard-cohen-x-john-berg-songs-from-a-room

An album that inspired you to form a band.

Leonard Cohen’s Songs From A Room was a big influence on my songwriting and convinced me that writing songs that centred around lyrics and sincere sounding singing could be exciting. Lia and I formed an ambient noisey drone band called Moonmilk after spending a lot of time with Fripp and Eno’s No Pussyfooting.

An album that reminds you of your high school years.

The Clash – London Calling

I loved this album so much and I made tapes of the double album which gave it a lot of mileage on the bus to school. It really opened me up to a lot different ideas in music.

cale paris

An album you’d love to hear live and played in full.

John Cale – Paris 1919. 

This album is just so incredible. Imagine seeing those strings and oboes and wild arrangements. John Cale taking on a character that speaks to ghosts and travels around Europe being mystified by everything and poking fun at the aristocracy. Apparently he was very high and loose during the writing and recording but I think he could pull it off.

Your favourite album cover art.

King Crimson – The Court of the Crimson King

empire-2-cover

A guilty pleasure album.

Bob Dylan – Empire Burlesque. 

This is not a celebrated Dylan album, but I think it’s pretty great. The arrangements are creating some sort of new wave/harmonica rock. There are some really great songs on it and he’s really belting it out with the backing singers. It doesn’t always go down well at a party though.

The last album I bought.

Weyes Blood – Front Row Seat To Earth

alicecoltrane

The next album I want to buy.

Richard and Linda Thompson – Pour Down Like Silver

Alice Coltrane – The Ecstatic Music Of Alice Coltrane

Heat Wave – Heat Wave

SingingSkies_VinylPack_Web_1024x1024-2

Favourite Albums of 2016

ds-fave-albums-2016

And yet again the brain-scrambling exercise of narrowing down our favourite albums released in 2016 has been successfully navigated. Much gnashing of teeth ensued, spreadsheet cells shifted frequently and the dust surrounding the shallow process of rating albums against one another has finally settled.

Over at Post To Wire, our Americana music site, we’ve already ranked our 40 favourite albums that fall under that wide stylistic umbrella but here is our all-encompassing master list of our 50 favourite albums across all genres. We’ve still got a list of 40 recommended albums to listen to, that on any day may also make this list, but the cutoff has to happen sometime. Over time some of these entries will also shift around and increase/decrease in our level of appraisal but to my ears the top 20 is pretty rock solid. Dive on in and we’ll see you in 2017.

a1102331458_10

1  Arbor Labor Union – I Hear You

This was an album that slowly but surely dug its way into my ears and heart with its churning blend of Velvet Underground jangle and drone, the freewheeling sensibilities of some of my favourite recent guitarists such as Steve Gunn and Chris Forsyth, post-punk angles and disdain for perfection, a voice that hurls and breaks like Protomartyr and Pissed Jeans and a dusty back-roads vibe on 90s Dinosaur Jr and Smashing Pumpkins that combined to make I Hear You an unhurried and endlessly absorbing album of guitar rock.

a2378083059_10-2

2  Tindersticks – The Waiting Room

The UK group made a splendid return to form in 2016 with The Waiting Room. By taking a less-is-more approach they’ve mastered a sense of graceful musical levitation where songs drift by and hang in the air on the back of Stuart Staples’ soulful, rich and austere voice and backed by the band’s blend of post-rock, soundtracks, late-night jazz stylings, uber-stoned echoes of dancehall and sophisticated funk. Nothing else sounded like it this year. In ‘Hey Lucinda’ they produced one of our favourite songs of 2016.

a2655328594_10

3  Witch Hats – Deliverance

The Melbourne quartet continue to refine their sound and they came closest to perfecting it on Deliverance. Their dark, lurching rock ‘n’ roll is awash with howling dirges and claustrophobic angst. The bass is deep and heavy, anchoring the songs as they stagger off into Stooges proto-punk, and nihilistic post-punk. The key is the melodies that still burn a hole in the gothic, swampy vibe. They’re firmly in the realm of The Clash, The Drones and The Gun Club yet they’ve dug their own hook-laden hole and decorated it with all manner of exceptional dark pop and bruised, gutter-punk blues.

americanband-2

4  Drive-By Truckers – American Band

Hood, Cooley and band have built an epic back catalogue of albums over the last two decades and American Band is right up there with their very best. It rocks, it soothes and it was the most poetically prescient album of the year. It touched on modern America and the cultural, economic, political and societal struggles it still wrestles with. The band balanced education, commentary and incisive critique with country rock ‘n’ roll and weary yet defiant melancholy.

packshot1-768x768

5  Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree

Cave returns with his most affecting and intimate sounding album, after his family was struck by tragedy when his son died after falling from a cliff. The album was already underway when that happened but the weight of it hangs across the songs like a heavy, ghostly mist as Cave sings of drug addicts in Tijuana hotel rooms and a myriad of other characters flirting with the netherworld. It’s a hard listen emotionally as the relentless soundscapes conjured up by The Bad Seeds navigate the ominous and darkened waters yet ultimately they allow slivers of light to relieve some of the sadness and tragedy. Skeleton Tree is essential and moving music par excellence.

6  Dinosaur Jr – Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not

7  David Bowie – Blackstar

8  Richmond Fontaine – You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing To Go Back To

9  The Felice Brothers – Life In The Dark

10  Case/Lang/Veirs – Case/Lang/Veirs

11  Kyle Craft – Dolls Of Highland

12  Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker

13  The Drones – Feelin Kinda Free

14  Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

15  Jason Walker – All-Night Ghost Town

16  Davey Craddock – City West

17  Eleanor Friedberger – New View

18  Steve Gunn – Eyes On The Line

19  Ryley Walker – Golden Sings That Haven’t Been Sung

20  The Field – Follower

21  Lucinda Williams – The Ghosts Of Highway 20

22  William Crighton – William Crighton

23  Jonny Fritz – Sweet Creep

24  Big Smoke – Time Is Golden

25  Darren Cross – _Xantastic

26  Robert Ellis – Robert Ellis

27  The Goon Sax – Up To Anything

28  Karl Blau – Introducing Karl Blau

29  Okkervil River – Away

30  Cian Nugent – Night Fiction

31  Margaret Glaspy – Emotions and Maths

32  William Tyler – Modern Country

33  Cass McCombs – Mangy Love

34  The Renderers – In The Sodium Light

35  Lambchop – FLOTUS

36  Oren Ambarchi – Hubris

37  Andy Stott – Too Many Voices

38  Lower Plenty – Sister Sister

39  Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band – The Rarity Of Experience

40  A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service

41  Will Wood – Magpie Brain & Other Stories

42  Underworld – Barbara Barbara, We Face An Uncertain Future

43  Luther Dickinson – Blues & Ballads

44  Chook Race – Around The House

45  Sonic Youth – Spinhead Sessions

46  The Men – Devil Music

47  Kevin Morby – Singing Saw

48  Parquet Courts – Human Performance

49  Ghost Wave – Radio Norfolk

50  Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial

FILM REVIEW: Once More With Feeling

nickcave_704_2

Music documentaries often follow one of a few common narratives, whether documenting the rise (and often) fall of a band or musician, or following the making of an album or tour. Once More With Feeling fills a couple of different roles in that it acts as a preview and scene-setter for Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ new album Skeleton Tree, released the day after the worldwide screening of the film, as well as a raw and intimate insight into negotiating the cycles of grief and how real-life tragedy can inform creativity.

Filmed on exquisite black and white (and in 3D), Andrew Dominik takes a layered approach of performance, voiceover, evocative and inventive establishing shots and straight interview footage. The result is a documentary of a documentary. He’s produced a film that looks magnificent and most importantly, conveys the range of emotion when Cave’s family unit is fractured by the accidental death of his son Arthur who fell from a cliff in 2015. Cave is confused and frustrated, seesawing between self-doubt and resilience while he and wife Susie immerse themselves in their work as one way of dealing with the trauma.

Warren Ellis is portrayed as a loyal and steadfast friend and musical partner and there is a strong sense that their music – and the physical process of making it – is a critical way forward, a beacon through the darkness. Cave comes out of the film as an utterly human figure, creatively paralysed by his loss but knowing that the music and his family are also his saving grace.

Chris Familton

SONIC KICKS: Show Me Where It Hurts

Sonic KicksSMWIH

Show Me Where It Hurts are a Rhodes electric piano, drums and vocals duo from Auckland, New Zealand. Both musicians have been key players on the Auckland scene for the last two decades with Josh Hetherington fronting Thorazine Shuffle and Ronny Haynes drumming with bands such as Pash and Fagan And The People.

The pair have just released their debut self-titled EP (stream/buy below) which follows their 2014 7″ single ‘Show Me Where It Hurts’/’All I Ever Need’ (included on the EP). This time around they’ve built on the one-two punch of the drums/Rhodes combination, adding harmonies, guitars, percussion and keys to the mix with players such as Salon Kingsadore’s Hayden Sinclair on bass, Tom Rodwell (‘Sheffield’s answer to Lightnin’ Hopkins’: NME) on guitar, legendary double bassist Peter Scott, Finn Scholes (Carnivorous Plant Society) on trumpet, and Cam Allen on baritone sax. The results are a richer, more textured and nuanced set of recordings that drip with sweet soul, humid grooves and Hetherington’s voice which soothes and strains in equally rewarding amounts.

Hetherington – songwriter, singer and the man on the keys in SMWIH – kindly took the time to reminisce, enthuse and wax lyrical about some of the important albums that have shaped his musical life.

The first album I bought…

Kiss – Unmasked (1980)

MI0002326466Not their greatest, but as an eight-year old turned on to Kiss by their Australasian pop smash ‘Shandi’ (and Dynasty’s ‘I Was Made for Lovin’ You’), along with an older friend’s encouragement, and, yeah, the make-up, mystique and all-out cartoonish-ness of the whole thing, then you couldn’t go wrong with a comic book cover, the original line-up – at least in name (there was a notable session player in place of Peter Criss on the drums) – and the pop accessibility of many of the harmony laden, yet still riff-heavy, tunes (many co-written by producer Vini Poncia). It all made for a perfect entry point as far as these ears were concerned, at very formative stage. Their concert at Western Springs (Auckland, NZ), in December 1980, was my first and was also highly formative.

Gene Simmons’ standouts ‘Naked City’ and ‘She’s So European’ are big-ass, pop metal tunes, Paul Stanley’s ‘What Makes the World Go ’Round’ and ‘Tomorrow’ fill the same sort of bill, but it’s the Ace Frehley tunes, ‘Talk to Me’, ‘Torpedo Girl’ and ‘Two Sides of the Coin’ – along with several of his killer solos – which hark bark to the grittier era of their early-mid ’70s oeuvre, and which always stood out to me.

An album that soundtracked a relationship…

Nick Cave – Your Funeral, My Trial (1986)

MI0003093418Your Funeral, My Trial is an album I gave to my wife early in our relationship, and it holds a special place for me. The doomed, world-weary romance and weighty carnival-esque feel of the record, with its heavy Hammond use (often played by Cave), not to mention a song called ‘The Carney’, provided a beautiful, dark and contrapuntal soundtrack to a happy and exciting time, and proved not at all prophetic for us in its foreboding atmosphere (16 years on!).

I love the title track, and the prototypical, Cave-ian ‘Sad Waters’ which features a character called Mary (no less), with hair of gold and lips like cherries (natch!), who seduces the protagonist’s soul, wading the aforementioned waters with her dress up past her knee, turning them into wine under weeping willow trees, whose vines she plaits.

It still makes me want to drink too much vodka.

An album that inspired me to form a band…

Nirvana – Nevermind (1991)

MI0001996061Nevermind showed the way for rock music post its ’80s nadir, I think, tearing back the curtain to reveal the possibilities of combining a vital and uncompromising, underground punk spirit and sound with the ’70s metal and rock ’n’ roll of this teenager guitar player’s high-school years and the high (’60s-based) art-pop and rock of his childhood (early ’80s Beatlemaniac that I was).

Teenage angst had arguably never sounded quite as raw, exciting, honest, vital, uncompromising or as inspiring as this. Inimitable as it was, it was the intent and the perfectly executed, and infectiously simple idea that provided a way forward, when one had otherwise seemed unforthcoming, much in the same way I’m sure punk in the ’70s did for so many young players and bands.

I got in touch with a drummer I knew from primary school who suggested I bring my guitar along to the rehearsal of a group he was playing with, and I joined my first proper band (Thorazine Shuffle).

Albums that reminds me of my high school years…

MI0002960634Led Zeppelin – II (1969), The Rolling Stones – Let It Bleed (1969), The Beatles – White Album (1968), The Who – Quadrophenia (1972), David Bowie – Ziggy Stardust (1972), Lou Reed – Transformer (1972), Bob Dylan – Blonde on Blonde (1966), The Clash – London Calling (1980), Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True (1977).

I dug pop radio, too, but as a guitarist and nascent songwriter I was immersed in another era, educating myself (in a certain area, anyway), somewhat out of time and out of step with contemporary mores. But I also loved The Cure – and Licensed to Ill and Appetite for Destruction came along at about the right time, too!

An album I’d love to hear live and played in full…

You Am I – Hourly Daily (1996)

Album330_HDr-363x363I’d love to have caught one of these shows in 2013 with all the live horn and string arrangements, when You Am I performed the album and Hi Fi Way (1995) in their entirety.

Hourly Daily is a beautiful, evocative and poignant record, that makes me feel as sad as it makes me happy. Though I’m not Australian, there’s a spirit, sound, sense of humour and sensitivity to this band and Tim Rogers’ songs – as optimised by their mid 1990s output – which has always appealed to me and to which I really relate – making me wonder if perhaps the suburban New Zealand childhood I experienced wasn’t so different from that of many of our Australian cobbers.

The Triple J documentary on the making of Hourly Daily, which originally aired in the early 2000s, was recently posted at the station’s site, and is a compelling listen, with the multi-tracks revisited, and drum, keyboard, guitar and vocal parts re-examined, soloed, marvelled at and celebrated by the band.

Personal note: Having shared Auckland Big Day Out festival bills on a number of occasions in the 1990s, my then band (Thorazine Shuffle) finally got a chance to share a stage in support, on the night You Am I debuted their new guitarist Davey Lane at Auckland’s Powerstation in 1999.

My favourite album cover art…

The Rolling Stones – Exile on Main Street  (1972)

MI0000035025‘They’re gonna love it!’ Mick Jagger was quoted as saying upon seeing the design from beat photographer (and subsequent director of infamous Stone’s verité film Cocksucker Blues), Robert Franks. And by they, he meant the kids, legions of them, Stones fans all, who would understand implicitly, in the monochromatic murkiness of the sleeve and the music, this perfect representation of the marriage of art and commerce, music and money, the band and the record.

The front cover isn’t simply the collage of freaks, strongmen, dancing girls, ventriloquists, b-grade movie stars and billiard ball eaters, which it initially appears to be. Rather, it’s a single photograph of a wall covered in postcards, cigarette cards, snaps from a bygone era (covering all of the aforementioned material and a great deal more).

The distinction is important, as interest lies not only specifically in the strangeness of the images themselves, but in the strangeness of the world they represent in the photograph’s entirety, and the unease and loneliness it (and the realisation of its nature) evokes.

As with the album itself – a sprawling yet somehow highly successful, evocative, moving, inspiring and ultimately cohesive (in its whole) exploration of rock ’n’ roll, Gospel, blues, country and Americana – the photograph is greatest as the sum of its parts.

Franks was heralded by none other than King of the Beats, Jack Kerouac himself, who wrote the introduction to the photographer’s iconic collection of photographs, The Americans, first published in 1958. His employment by Mick Jagger was in part testament to the lineage (that bona-fide Beats connection) that his involvement would lend. But it was mostly due to the greatness of his work – Franks clear understanding of, and eye for, the magnitude and unknowingness of his greatest subject matter (in America and Americans), in harmony with the greatness of the singer’s and his band’s own work (and their understanding of their own often overlapping subject matter) – not to mention Jagger’s own impeccable instincts and taste.

The back cover and gatefold spread are balanced with additional Franks images from his ’50s America – a box office showing a Joan Crawford film, a small-town parade of saluting servicemen and civilians, lonely juke joints, a desert road – and augmented with Super 8 stills shot by the photographer of the Stones, surrounded by the decadence of some of the gardens, streets, studios and porno theatres of L.A – Mick, Keith and Charlie, Bobby Keys, Jim Price, Marshall Chess, Mick Taylor, Bill Wyman, a sleeping man (one eye open), an unidentified woman, bystanders, hangers on, mugging for the camera, smiling, pouting but mostly looking bored, yawning, self-conscious – the ennui of the ’70s having well and truly set-in.

‘They’re gonna love it’, and indeed they did. I do, too.

A guilty pleasure album…

Dire Straits – Making Movies (1980)

MI0003515822Another formative album from my childhood, so there’s a strong nostalgic element. That said you can’t really go past the melodrama or whirligig-ery of ‘Tunnel of Love’ for a song.

And how about ‘Romeo and Juliet’? That picked Dobro intro always grabs me, and Mark Knopfler’s film noir, street-wise patter, always impressed me as a kid, too. Come to think of it what am I apologising for? It still impresses me. Plus he plays guitar on Dylan’s Slow Train Coming (another guilty pleasure!)

The last album I bought…

Sly Stone – Listen To The Voices: Sly Stone In The Studio 1965-1970

ListenToTheVoicesSlyA killer collection of often rare, formative-era, Sly Stone produced cuts as Svengali-style producer and hit man.

Tracks include unreleased demos, nuggets and gems from the Family Stone along with songs Sly wrote and produced for artists such as (Nuggets-era) Beau Brummels, Billy Preston, 6IX, Joe Hicks, Little Sister, The French Fries and Sly himself – and many have been excavated and in some instances mixed for the first time for this release, by compilation producer Alec Paleo.

It’s a master class in pop, soul and funk production with heavy signposts along the way telegraphing Sly’s production peak (and personal nadir) in ’71’s dense, claustrophobic, and sometimes downright paranoid There’s a Riot Going On – both his biggest album to that date, and the record which saw the dissolution of the original Family Stone line-up.

Tracks by 6IX, Joe Hicks, Abaco Dream and Sly himself often point the way towards Riot’s infamous and hypnotic, narco-funk minimalism – with tracks often sparsely yet powerfully furnished with early drum machine, direct and extremely up-front bass, harmonica, effected keyboards and guitar, not to mention Sly’s own unique and unselfconscious singing and vocalisms.

Earlier tracks often reflect the more raucous, upbeat R&B and soul of The Family Stone’s earlier breakthrough hits (‘Want to Take You Higher’ and Dance to the Music’) – and the joie-de-vivre of Beau Brummels’ ‘Underdog’, The French Fries’ own ‘Danse a la Musique’ and Sly’s cover of The Kinks’ ‘You Really Got Me’ are infectious and irresistible.

The Paleo’s access to master tapes sees studio banter included on many of these cuts, adding further insight into the fertile, creative and vital period for Sly Stone at the height of his popularity and burgeoning production prowess.

Another, more recent release I’m Just Like You: Sly Stone’s Stone Flower 1969-70 is a more focused look at productions specific to his Stone Flower label, and cuts which more directly point to the iconoclastic minimalism of Riot. Many tracks appear on both compilations and each release is great, though the former offers more surprises and a broader palette, while the latter is also available on vinyl.

The next album I want to buy…

Shayne P. Carter – Offsider

a2976649321_10I can’t wait for Shayne Carter’s new piano-driven album Offsider. In fact I’ve been looking forward to it since I heard about it from Carter’s drummer Gary Sullivan (JPSE, Dimmer) some years ago. So it’s been sometime in the making and on the strength of the first two singles (available to hear at shaynepcarter.bandcamp.com) it’s going to be a cracker!

I’m a fan of Carter from across his career (Double Happys, Straitjacket Fits, Dimmer and solo), and this change of angle in his decision to learn, write and perform on piano promises intriguing new musical possibilities from a true, original and uncompromising composer and writer (and also intrigues and resonates with me in terms of my own, more recent, piano-based approach to writing and performing with Show Me Where It Hurts).

Apocalyptic first single, ‘We Will Rise Again’ is as tense as can be in its foreboding waltz-time verses, and almost overwhelming free-time, feedback- and string-drenched refrains, which it dissolves into repeatedly.

There’s no easing of the tension in second single, ‘I Know Not Where I Stand’ either, where strings, synths and Carter’s strident yet delicate piano line marches in lock step with Sullivan’s four-on-the-floor, bass-drum driven groove, which is punctuated by an ever growing crescendo of driving, swinging brush-strokes predominant on the snare, and Carter’s own anxiety ridden vocals, cushioned occasionally in chorused harmony with himself.

Favourite LPs of 2016 So Far

favouritealbumsds2016

Here we are again, the mid-point of another year. It’s always a good time to take stock of the albums that have been released in the last six months, review the long list of records we’ve heard and dissed or praised. We’re always listening to a wide range of styles here at DS but from looking at this particular list it seems we’ve been embracing plenty of darker themed and melancholic music this year. Here, in vague but noncommittal order, is a selection of the best albums we’ve heard so far in 2016.

TindersticksThe Waiting Room

Arbor Labor UnionI Hear You

Witch HatsDeliverance

David BowieBlackstar

Kyle CraftDolls Of Highland

The DronesFeelin Kinda Free

RadioheadA Moon Shaped Pool

Richmond FontaineYou Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing To Go Back To

Davey CraddockCity West

Lucinda WilliamsThe Ghosts Of Highway 20

William CrightonWilliam Crighton

Eleanor FriedbergerNew View

Robert EllisRobert Ellis

Steve GunnEyes On The Line

Will WoodMagpie Brain & Other Stories

Favourite Albums of 2015

DS FAVE ALBUMS 2015

Another year comes to a close and it’s time for the end-of-year lists to be revealed. Here at Doubtful Sounds we’ve had another 12 months deeply immersed in Americana music (alt. country & folk) so you’ll find plenty of albums from that genre on the list below. That’s not to say we didn’t listen to plenty of other styles of music. As usual we wrapped our ears around plenty of post-punk and indie rock with doses of jazz, electronic and psych rock. Read on to see what we rated as our favourite albums of 2015 and let us know what your top selections were.

a0486859370_101. James McMurtry – Complicated Game

McMurtry was a new discovery for me in 2015, despite Complicated Game being his tenth studio album. I was immediately floored by the storytelling, the vivid and heartbreaking prose that cut straight to the core of the story at hand and by using the fewest words possible he drew me into his characters, predicaments, heartache and troubled times. His closest contemporary is Willy Vlautin (Richmond Fontaine, The Delines) who he shares a fascination with the downtrodden and struggling. Complicated Game was the most consistent and exquisite example of songwriting, complete with restrained and emotive playing, that I heard in 2015.

timthumb3.php-52. Marlon Williams – Marlon Williams

“Though this solo debut has been a long time coming he has toured and built a strong reputation as a live performer across Australia and NZ and that experience has filtered through on this superb album that never falters or loses its sense of wonderment across thirty-five playing minutes.”

james_thomson_cold_moon-23. James Thomson – Cold Moon

“The balance and symmetry of Thomson’s writing is a standout facet of his music. From blues to country, folk to New Orleans flavours, through the positive vibe of love songs to the darker desolation of characters at the end of line he nails them all in mood and lyrical imagery”

courtneyb-560x5604. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit

“Barnett often gets pegged as quirky yet her musical approach ticks most alt. rock and indie boxes. The joy and achievement of Sometimes I Sit and Think… is how she has married that with her inimitable knack for lyrics that will draw attention from even the most staunchest of listeners who would normally pay little attention to words. Like a more impressionistic pop-art take on the skilful writing of Mark Kozelek, Barnett is leading the way in literate songwriting without any hint of pretension.”

tah-cover-jpeg5. Lost Ragas – Trans Atlantic Highway

“That ability to hammer out a brisk honky tonk rhythm one minute and then craft a late night whisky-sodden ballad of heartache highlights the band’s magic. Combined with the way they apply tonality to their songs, both vocally and instrumentally, Lost Ragas have created an album of timeless quality, full of dark and graceful beauty.”

30f02ea86. The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – Freedom Tower: No Wave Dance Party 2015

Spencer, Judah Bauer and Russell Simins get back to what they do best; incorporating no wave funk, rock ‘n’ roll, blues and garage rock into one hollering’ and testifyin’ primal groove soundtrack. This was a palette cleanser after all the generic psych rock and faux electro-soul that permeated the airwaves in 2015.

Dogs At Bay WEB7. Bad Dreems – Dogs At Bay

“This feels like an important album, a statement born of experience, countless hours spent in the practice room and driving to shows. It rocks in a primitive fashion and it takes up residency in your short term memory. It sounds like the country and people that it chronicles and it never loses sight of the power of simplicity in rock n roll.”

Gold Class-28. Gold Class – It’s You

“Gold Class wear their influences on their collective sleeve yet they’ve corralled them into their own sound. The sheets of guitar, cold rhythms and that dark poetic howl are a breath of fresh air on this highly accomplished and compelling debut album.”

protomartyr_the_agent_intellect_10159. Protomartyr – The Agent Intellect

“Primal rhythms with wire-brush screes of guitar and the distinctive disaffected howl and Mark E Smith-styled rant of frontman Joe Casey. The way they sonically blend beautiful and bruised sounds is what makes their music so appealing. It sparks and spits, Casey’s black humour lyrics are both catchy and provocative but above all, in 2015, Protomartyr are a breath of dissonant fresh air.”

10. Infinity Broke – Before Beforea4111469137_10

Though mostly born from the same sessions as last year’s River Mirrors album, these nine songs operate on a different plane. More concise and song-based, yet with a broad range of moods and levels of intensity, the quartet conjure up caustic distorted storms of guitar over measured rhythms.

11. Nadia Reid – Listen to Formation, Look For The Signs

12. Royal Headache – High

13. Houndmouth – Little Neon Limelight

14. Father John Misty- I Love You, Honeybear

15. Blank Realm – Illegals In Heaven

16. Tami Neilson – Don’t Be Afraid

17. Kurt Vile – B’lieve I’m Goin Down

18. Sleater-Kinney – No Cities To Love

19. Destroyer – Poison Season

20. Twerps – Range Anxiety

21. Ryan Bingham – Fear And Saturday Night

22. Lindi Ortega – Faded Gloryville

23. SJD – Saint John Divine

24. Faith No More  – Sol Invictus

25. Bob Dylan – Shadows In The Night

26. Pokey LaFarge – Something In The Water

27. The Holy Soul – Fortean Times

28. The Phoenix Foundation – Give Up Your Dreams

29. Ryley Walker – Primrose Green

30. Perry Keyes – Sunnyholt

31. Tame Impala – Currents

32. Raised By Eagles – Diamonds In The Bloodstream

33. Lucero – All A Man Should Do

34. Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free

35. Sam Hunt with David Kilgour & The Heavy 8s – The 9th

36. Bill Ryder-Jones – West Kirby County Primary

37. Neil Young + Promise Of The Real – The Monsanto Years

38. John Moreland – High On Tulsa Heat

39. Kamasi Washington – The Epic

40. Beach House – Depression Cherry

41. Sleaford Mods – Key Markets

42. Dan Kelly – Leisure Panic

43. Moon Duo – Shadow Of The Sun

44. Ruby Boots – Solitude

45. Mark Lucas – Little Town Blues

46. Malcolm Holcombe – RCA Sessions

47. Django Django – Born Under Saturn

48. Jamie XX – In Colour

49. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly

50. Chastity Belt – Time To Go Home

 

REISSUES/LIVE/BEST-OF

  •  Bob Dylan – The Cutting Edge 1965 – 1966 The Bootleg Series Vol. 12
  • The Velvet Underground – The Complete Matrix Tapes
  • Drive-By Truckers – It’s Great to Be Alive!
  • The Jean-Paul Sartre Experience – I Like Rain: The Story of the Jean-Paul Sartre Experience
  • John Prine – September 78
  • Mogwai – Central Belters
  • The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers
  • Ryan Adams – Live at Carnegie Hall
  • Sly and The Family Stone – Live at the Fillmore East: October 4th & 5th, 1968
  • Townes Van Zandt – The Nashville Sessions
  • Various – Ain’t Gonna Hush: The Queens of Rhythm & Blues
  • Various – In a Moment: Ghost Box
  • Various – Ork Records: New York, New York
  • Various – Punk 45: Extermination Nights in the Sixth City – Cleveland, Ohio: Punk and the Decline of the Mid-West 1975-1982
  • Various – Remembering Mountains: Unheard Songs By Karen Dalton
  • Various – Buried Country 1.5: The Story of Aboriginal Country Music

DS 40 Favourite Albums of 2014

DS Fave albums 2014

Another bumper year of music eases to a close with pretty much all the year’s albums now released. This year we’ve collated our 40 favourite LPs that we heard over the last 12 months. Of course there are bound to be a few gems that we didn’t get round to hearing that we’ll discover in the months to come but as of now these are the ones that hit the spot for us here at Doubtful Sounds. Americana music was a big part of what we listened to in 2014 and that is represented in the make-up of our list. If that is your musical cup of tea you can find our full folk and alt-country best-of list over at our Post To Wire blog. That aside, there are still plenty of other styles from brutal metallic riffing to woozy indie gems, primitive electronic poetry and doomy post rock. Hopefully there are a few records here that you haven’t heard yet and might feel inclined to check out. We’d love to hear your favourites in the comments section or on our Facebook page.

  1. Sun Kil Moon – Benji
  2. Protomarytr – Under Color of Official Right
  3. Lucinda Williams – Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone
  4. The Delines – Colfax
  5. The War On Drugs – Lost in the Dream
  6. Hurray For The Riff Raff – Small Town Heroes
  7. Tiny Ruins – Brightly Painted One
  8. The Felice Brothers – Favorite Waitress
  9. Little Bastard – Little Bastard
  10. Infinity Broke – River Mirror
  11. Earth – Primitive and Deadly
  12. Dan Michaelson and The Coastguards – Distance
  13. Blank Realm – Grassed Inn
  14. Nikki Lane – All Or Nothin’
  15. Rosanne Cash – The River and the Thread
  16. Robert Scott – The Green House
  17. Bernie Griffen & The Thin Men – Salvation
  18. Tami Neilson – Dynamite!
  19. Shihad – FVEY
  20. East Brunswick All Girls Choir – Seven Drummers
  21. Aldous Harding – Aldous Harding
  22. Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music
  23. Drive-By Truckers – English Oceans
  24. Frazey Ford – Indian Ocean
  25. Damien Jurado – Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son
  26. David Kilgour & the Heavy Eights – End Times Undone
  27. J Mascis – Tied to a Star
  28. Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band – Intensity Ghost
  29. Doug Paisley – Strange Feelings
  30. Spoon – They Want My Soul
  31. Justin Townes Earle – Single Mothers
  32. Robert Ellis – The Lights From The Chemical Plant
  33. Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams
  34. Jep and Dep – Word Got Out
  35. Malcolm Holcombe – Pitiful Blues
  36. You Beauty  – Jersey Flegg
  37. Peter Bibby – Butcher/Hairstylist/Beautician
  38. Donny Benet – Weekend At Donny’s
  39. Sleaford Mods – Divide & Exit
  40. Shellac – Dude Incredible